Favourite films of 2015: Crimson Peak (realized I am a sucker for gothic romance – had a Twilight phase at 14 which I have discreetly swept under the rug and pledged never to bring up again. Burn the history books) & Mad Max: Fury Road & Far from the Madding Crowd
The costume design in Crimson Peak though.
love Mia Wasikowska’s Goldilocks in the world’s most impractical nightgown with a candelabrum look
Kate Hawley: Well, I know the devil that’s Guillermo, and I say that with the utmost love and affection, so I know when he says, “It’s just Victorian,” it’s never just that—it’s a starting point. I start off by drawing the character in the moment, and that’s how I talk with Guillermo—how do I see Edith in that chair in the corridor. I never do a costume drawing, it’s all about the character, but with Guillermo, I always sit down and read the script and you always see the motifs that he brings back.
I can’t say this strongly enough, that Crimson Peak felt like an opera, or a piece of music in that there’s almost two acts, you have the world of Buffalo and the world of Allerdale, and there are two seasons and colors and themes. So I read it and immerse myself in the real period detail, I do honor that. You have to know what you’re dealing with to know what you’re gonna trhow out. Then I went into looking at themes, like symbolist painters. There’s a an early draft of the film where they go to see some of the works of Rodin, the early symbolist painter, and that’s my world too. Guillermo and I have very similar books on our shelves. Sometimes I’ll go down little rabbit holes and borrow from very contemporary things, like in terms of color or, I found a photograph of a dead canary because I’d gone down into coal mines and all of it felt like it was answering many things at once.
Q: I wanted to ask you about several scenes when Edith is lying in bed and wakes up with a start, you’ve given her these nightgowns with huge, cottony shoulders that taper down, a leg-of-mutton sleeve. The way that it’s shot with the moonlight behind her shining through the puffs at the shoulder, it’s quite diaphanous and delicate.
Hawley: She’s like a chrysalis at that point. She’s very fragile, so the butterfly is dying and becoming this little husk. And, you know, I’ve never done so many nighties and nightgowns! It’s all about running around in night dresses through long corridors. That also blended to the fabric. When Guillermo said to me, “It’s about a house that breathes,” that’s why we chose the lightest fabric, just a little thing to try and help the storytelling with the idea of the house.
Hawley: We made conscious decisions between the worlds of Allerdale and Buffalo, where with the clothes in Buffalo we used sewing machines on the men’s clothes and hand finishing, but all the clothes are hand-stitched, especially with Jessica’s clothes, because it really sits against the body in a completely different way. No one will notice it but it really makes a difference in the construction. And things like the types of corsets we chose, the underpinnings which would define the outer structure, they’re all true to the period.
del Toro: It’s like if you recoil when you hear “fairytale” but you watch Pan’s Labyrinth. You’re not going to be watching Sleepless in Seattle if I’m directing it. It’s a blood soaked romance, but there is romance. It’s a strangely… It’s a psychological tale. I think if you go in expecting non-stop scares or for it to function as a horror movie, you will not engage the movie into what it’s trying to be which is a square out, lavish, gothic romance. A little more female-centric, a little more violent and a little more sexy than normal, but other than that, it’s a very classical production.
del Toro: Gothic romance has to be a little overwrought. Because you’re not talking about realistic plots. Even if you see something as hallowed as Jane Eyre, you still have a mad woman with pyromaniac proclivities, locked in a tower. You have fog and the Moors and a crumbling house. You have many trappings that need a certain stylization. And when I think of some of my favorite gothic romances, I think of Dragonwyck with Vincent Price, which is a lavish production of that or I think of Gaslight with Ingrid Bergman. I think you need a heightened style. You cannot quite do it straight out.
To watch and / or read:
i) Naked Lunch – David Cronenberg + William S. Burroughs
ii) Rebecca – Alfred Hitchcock + Daphne du Maurier
iii) Pan’s Labyrinth – Guillermo del Toro
iv) The Mysteries of Udolpho – Ann Radcliffe
v) Slaughterhouse-Five – Kurt Vonnegut
vi) The Lobster – Yorgos Lanthimos